Travel adventures have occupied my mind quite a bit most of my life and there are many destinations that have set up camp in my brain. I keep them tucked away and keep researching and being open to opportunities and the gut feeling when my intuition tells me it’s the right time and the right place to take action. I experienced this strong, overwhelming feeling of urgency in my gut lately that I just HAD to get to Cuba as soon as possible.
The feeling has been getting stronger and stronger with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in the past couple years. I wanted to see the island before it was changed by too many outsiders. I wanted to experience the authenticity of the people, the culture, the colors and the cars. I do love great cars – that comes from my dad who always had quite a collection and he was also a former race car driver in the 40’s. Cars are in my blood.
It was two distinct experiences a couple months apart that drove me to take action. The first was when I was watching the movie Fate of the Furious – the one we had seen them setting up for in Iceland when my college roommate and I were up in Lake Myvatn in the northern reaches of Iceland on the frozen lakes. I just had to see what they were going to do in the movie on that frozen lake. They did A LOT with it – very cool. Anyway… the beginning of the movie begins in Havana, Cuba with all those glorious, colorful 1950’s cars. The next incident was President Trump announcing he was clamping down on some of the openings that former President Obama had negotiated. As soon as I heard that, I started researching trips to Cuba to get over there before the bureaucracy but the kibosh on any travel for Americans.
I found a cruise that circumnavigated the island and made many stops along with sanctioned people-to-people cultural excursions for Americans. I decided to stay in Jamaica before and after the trip to luxuriate in the amazing resorts to soak in the ocean breezes and beaches and allow the trip to imprint on me. Just being in a place where JFK took Jackie on their honeymoon, where he wrote his inauguration speech and where Stella got her groove back in the movie of the same name; so I could feel taken care of in a most luxurious way.
So the first resort was a complete disappointment and I ended up getting a full refund due to the comedy or errors, the terrible food and the lack of service. Fortunately, the new General Manager was Swiss, who know how to do hospitality well. He had been brought in to shake things up and evidently, I was the unpaid consultant that helped him make his point to his managers about what has run them downhill from their heyday. The last resort was purely heaven, gracious hospitality, and sumptuousness to the nth degree. It was just what I had imagined with the spa, the cliffside walking paths, the organic food grown on the property and the Ralph Lauren-designed rooms overlooking the lush gardens and beach. I was pampered to within an inch of my life and I loved every single leisurely minute of it as I tried to drink in every ounce of luxury.
The cruise ship only had 200 guests instead of their usual 1200, so we were very well cared for by the staff. It was a delight to actually have time to get to know them and the other passengers as we soaked in the long-hidden culture of Cuba…at least hidden from Americans. We stopped in several ports around the island, but the jewel is Havanna….at least the few blocks that were renovated for tourist eyes to see.
I was taken aback by the oppression, falling buildings, and poverty. I had only seen the Havana that the news and the movies had wanted you to see. But there were those amazing cars – beautiful, restored 1940’s and 50’s relics that had to have magicians as owners to keep them so pristine. A weird reality is that the old car taxi drivers make $50/hour from the tourists to drive around and doctors only make $60-$100/month while the average income is around $10/month. The economic pyramid is being turned upside down. Air BnB’s are popping up as residents are now able to own a business. It was a little strange rambling around the old city taking in the culture at the same time feeling communist eyes and ears upon you. It was uneasy. Signs of Castro were still everywhere. Very strange to pull into the harbor and not see any yachts or boats…nothing except another cruise ship and the dilapidated terminals with nothing but timbers from many decades ago. The irony of the culture clash was not lost on me — pulling up to the rickety pier perched upon the deck of my Royal Suite. Disconcerting…. The whole place is falling apart. I’m certain many buildings came down after the hurricane as report were that the spray of the waves reached above the lighthouse at Havana Harbor.
The best part of the cruise was the ship’s officers offering me the Royal Suite – the largest suite on the ship because a few of my shower tiles had come up and they didn’t want me to be disturbed by the repair. The place was palatial as far as ship cabins go – you could easily fit 50 people on the deck along with its own outdoor shower, hot tub, lounge chairs and dining suite. One of the perks of having a mostly-empty ship and I’ll gladly take it. If this was part of the Cuban cultural experience, I’m in! I’m forever grateful that I listened to my intuition and took the trip….a lifetime of memories from all my senses.
Most of us are guilty of creating loooong lists of things to do and not managing to put much of a dent in the compilation of busy-ness. Then some of us even do something that wasn’t on said list and end up wanting credit for it (not that anybody is keeping track or watching), so we add whatever it is we did that wasn’t on our list to our list just so we can cross it off. I’m talking about another type of To Do list. A fun one. A list of trips and adventures I want to do during my lifetime. I don’t call it a Bucket List because that seems negative to me. I call it a Life List because I want to do it living Hartfully, vitally, and fully alive.
So, on our most recent trip to Tahiti and Bora Bora, my BFF Barb and I decided it would be apropos to use the stationery aboard the M.S. Paul Gauguin while we were sailing around French Polynesia and brainstorm our To Do list of adventure travel trips we want to experience. The ideas were flying fast and furious and I could hardly keep up with the trips that were spewing forth from our lips. Later that day one of our travel buddies had spotted us on the deck during our writing drill and asked us what we were consumed with and intent on writing. We showed them our list and they asked if they could join us on some of our future explorations.
Barb’s philosophy is that you always need something to look forward to and she grew up always planning the next trip while her family was still on their current trip. It was something they always did and something she/I now carry forth. One of the maxims I’ve heard throughout the years is that happiness is having something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. It keeps you young, vital, excited, and exciting. Sometimes we don’t have it all figured out immediately on our trip, but the mindset is there and we usually come up with something within a few days to a few weeks after our return. We are both good problem solvers and we find that travelling to far-away lands is always chalk-full of opportunities to solve some problems. Issues always come up, missed connections, bags not showing up, wrong bed configuration in the room, mixed-up meals, and communication disconnects. It gives you a chance to test your creative thinking skills and ingenuity. I also find it’s better to have the luxury of two or more brains working on the solution than just me. If it’s just me, then it gets a little weirdly nerve-wracking, and if it’s with my buddies, then it becomes an adventure.
What do you have to look forward to in your life? How are you living Hartfully and doing the things you want to do? How are your dreams playing out? Who are you inviting along for the ride? How do you make your ride enjoyable? I’ll share more Tahiti tales in future posts. There were so many amazing experiences to share that just lit me up. Once again it was one of those lifetime trips I’d been dreaming of for decades and it truly was a dream come true. What are you doing to make your dreams come true? Do you have a strategy in place, a visual, an accountability partner? I’ve uploaded our list – maybe it will spark some ideas in you.
We were deep in the Amazon jungle. I had wanted to do a jungle tour ever since I first saw the movie The Jungle Book with Mogli and Balu the blue bear when my brother took me to see it when I was five or six years old.
As we usually do, my BFF and I charted a wild itinerary into the wilds and invited some other friends to join us. Vacation planning is our forte and I call her a travel savant. This was one trip that was near and dear to my heart and I knew that living fully and living Hartfully just had to include the Amazon forest.
Our thatched hut was so far into the rain forest that there were no roads. The only way to reach the compound was by motorized canoe. We had to walk the plank just to embark on the boat. Our guide told us we were not to ever walk alone around the camp. It was the buddy system for safety. The sign posted in our bathroom next to the whistle hanging on the door gave instructions on how to summon help if we encountered a wild animal and food in the huts was forbidden.
Being a vegetarian, I always travel with protein bars, trail mix and peanut butter crackers from past experience of going hungry for lack of appropriate food in unknown places and the middle of the jungle was one of those places. We took a nighttime canoe ride and saw a white alligator and a 60-pound rodent, a capybara which is related to the guinea pig. Seriously, think of a 60-pound rat. It gave me the willies just thinking about how huge it was. It was the largest rodent I had ever seen – the size of a German Shepherd and they roam free. A sloth hung from the branches as we made our way back to our hut. It was like a steam bath and still hovering in the 100’s at night, so I decided to take a cold shower only to find a frog in the stall. I wondered what other creatures had made their way into our hut, which was had only a screen on three sides.
At 4:00 am the jungle starts coming alive. It was completely black outside and I heard it. The lowly rumble of the beginning of a roar. Frozen in my bed with anticipation of a jaguar jumping through the screened wall, I turned on the video camera on my phone. There is was again, only this time much louder and closer and more grumbling. I just knew the big cat was after my M&M laden trail mix I had locked in my suitcase. Could they really smell it inside baggies and a rollaboard? I recorded the sounds and kept recording until the sound faded away. Maybe it wasn’t that hungry. I peered out the window and only saw a baby Capybara and heard the birds. It was a symphony of sound as the wilderness cacophony grew louder as the sun rose. I’ve never heard so many different natural sounds in my life. It was deafening. The one sound that I was glad not to hear any more was the growl.
My BFF, Barb and I finally mustered the courage to exit our hut and go to breakfast using the buddy system and keeping our eyes peeled for jaguars. All we encountered were monkeys and birds. We thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast of Brazil nuts, pastries and fried yucca. Next time I’m double-bagging my trail mix to throw the wild animals off the scent.
It’s been my dream for a few decades to experience the Aurora Borealis, but like chasing rainbows there is no guarantee Mother Nature will comply with your travel plans. After many failed attempts to see the Northern Lights show in Canada and Alaska; I was determined that it was finally my turn. As luck (fate?) would have it; my college roommate was in town and we had dinner, not having seen each other for a few years. I mentioned that I wanted to visit Iceland and she said it was also on her To Do list. Fast-forward a year and here we were reunited on a flight to Reykjavik 35 years after living together in college off on our great Icelandic adventure.
As I discussed my intentions with what seemed like everybody who crossed my path for several weeks leading up to the trip; I learned that five other friends had either just returned, were planning on going the same month or the same week when Jennifer and I would be there. All of them who had just returned, came back without having seen the Lights.
We took another flight to the northern tip of Iceland because I wanted to make sure there was no light pollution to dilute the experience. We had registered our room at the front desk so they could call us if/when the lights materialized, and then we went upstairs to relax. We set out our clothing like firemen so we could easily get dressed for 20-degree weather in case the show started. I was sitting in a chair near the window with my eyes trained on the night sky and then I saw the clouds move only to realize it was the Northern Lights. I started yelling “the Lights, the Lights” and it was a scene reminiscent of the Keystone Cops as we tried to get dressed as fast as possible to catch a glimpse. We ran through the lobby announcing the lights and they didn’t disappoint as they danced across the sky. It was EXHILERATTING and it seemed all the guests were in the parking lot snapping photos.
After returning to bed; we received a call at 3:30am for yet another show of the Lights as we fumbled and bumbled our way to get dressed as fast as possible. Still breathtaking the second time around.
The next night I decided to experience the natural thermal baths and Mother Nature once again didn’t disappoint. It was a surreal experience to bask in the hot water outside, watching a full’ish moon, 15 degrees and watching the lights stream across the horizon. There’s something about natural wonders that move me beyond imagination. A dream come true.
The next morning, we capped off our northern tour by watching the crew set up on top of the frozen lake for the filming of the movie The Fate of the Furious– due out this month. A weird clash of the natural and the unnatural. I guess I’ll need to see the movie to bring that adventure to closure. Maybe I’ll call up Jennifer and we’ll meet someplace between our two cities to watch the movie together for yet another reunion.
Never give up on your dreams. If you really want something, speak it out loud, tell others, visualize, write it down, look at photos, hold the idea in your mind and figure out ways to get you there. Be still and ask how you can make it happen, the answers will come to you if you ask the right questions. Never would I have guessed during our college days when I first learned of the magnificence of the Aurora Borealis, that I would be traveling with my roommate three and a half decades later to make that dream come true.
Look further down in your story than today’s page and see how you want it to turn out. What is the plot in your ideal story, who are the characters, and how does it end? Plan for the ending chapter and the twists you want to add along the way. Adding new sub-plots will keep your attention piqued. To help get you through a tough spot or difficult time in your life, page down a day, a week, a year or two from now to get perspective on how important this particular difficulty might be.
What does your ideal outcome look like and what do you have to do now to get to that point? Something that may seem unsettling or stressful at this moment may not be such a big deal after you page down a few pages to see what affect it might have on the storyline. Expand the story a bit more and make a lifeline listing the things you want to accomplish in each decade of your life.
Fast-forward to your 105th birthday and look at your life. What will they be saying at your funeral? What is the legacy you want to leave? Be aware of how you would feel about the decisions you made. Are there any regrets? It has been said that most people end up regretting the things they didn’t do more than the things they did do. What would you regret not having done in your lifetime?
If you’re going through turbulent times, remember that the hero of most stories always have to overcome obstacles in order to become victorious in the end. If you didn’t have some conflict, it wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Are you living a pager-turner life, with lots of pages dog-eared to mark the good spots, or are you living a text-book style existence with lots of dry material between the covers?
Are you as interesting on the inside as your cover might represent, or is your life more flash on the outside with some emptiness on the inside? What are you doing to make your life something others would want to read about? (As in a great novel, not the National Enquirer.) Page down from today and see if you are living a best-seller and start creating your storyline right now.
This isn’t a dress rehearsal; it is opening night every single day. Practice putting your best foot forward; little eyes are upon you. Work on yourself to be the star of the show and shine in your own spotlight. A former Parks and Recreation slogan states “Life, be in it!” A good motto for living a luscious life.
What does your ideal life look like? What does success look like to you? How would you set the stage, and what specific details and characteristics would be present if you lived as the star in your own show? Take a couple hours to be alone with your thoughts and write down in graphic detail what your ideal life would look like. Take a look at your ideal day and then take inventory of what you already have from that list, then identify the gaps.
Write down specific steps to take to attract whatever you don’t already have in your life and take note of all the things from your ideal day list that you already have in your life. Celebrate the things from your ideal day listing that you already have in your life. It means you are on the right track. This one activity of being the star, producer, and director or your ideal show is one of the single most powerful visualization techniques and life changing exercises I have encountered.
Once you have your list, you are on your way to creating the Treasure Map of pictures depicting your ideal day and your ideal life that was mentioned previously. So get ready to dance the La Vita Polka – the dance of life and get ready to shine as the star of your own show. What are you doing to prepare for opening night?
Set high standards for yourself and stretch your limits. Set short term and easy peaks as well as long term and higher peaks to build on your successes, build your self confidence and build your energy to gain momentum for the big stuff. Reach for the outer limits and rejoice when you accomplish what you formerly thought impossible.
Author and artist Susan Kennedy, a.k.a. SARK, says “impossible” means “I’m possible!”. Peak performers take care of themselves through body, mind, and spirit to ensure they can meet their challenges. Acquire solid, healthy habits to help you attain your peak: restful sleep, nutritionally balanced eating, exercise, emotionally stable relationships, and following your passion.
If you do not have a healthy balance in your personal life, there is no way to be a peak performer in your professional life. Get organized, get your act together, get goals, get support, and get going to reach your peak.
No excuses for where you have been. Start from where you are right now and make positive changes toward increased energy. Select a few strategies that seem most workable for your lifestyle and make adjustments from there. It’s never too late to make a difference in somebody’s life – even your own. You don’t have to wait for that proverbial wake-up call such as a heart attack, cancer, a stroke, termination, divorce, children going off to college, or death of a loved one; you can decide to change now.
We either take what we get or ask for what we want and have some influence over what we want. Waiting around for fate to make our decisions doesn’t give us much of a back-up plan or wiggle room to move towards what we want. So what are you waiting for?
Where do you want to go? What steps do you have to take to move forward in the direction and the end state that was mentioned earlier? Each day is the dawn of a new beginning and a chance for each of us to start fresh and use our past experience as feedback and not an excuse.
Start today to create what you need to energize yourself and your life. Don’t drown yourself in the negative energy of what happened to you in your past or the energy drain of feeling like a victim from your past experiences.
Quit the bad habits that are draining the life out of you, or may have been holding you back, or may have lead you to a negative place in the past. No excuses. Just do it because you know what these habits are and you know it’s the right thing to do. I know it’s hard; but the benefits of long-term satisfaction will far outweigh the short-term gratification.
Get yourself together, get your partner, get a friend, or get professional assistance to help you quit the bad stuff for the long haul. Just do it. While you’re at it, quit procrastinating and move on to newer and better things. Getting the inertia moving in the right direction towards more positive things helps bring energy into our lives.
Take a fresh look at what you have today and where or who you want to be tomorrow and focus on what you need to do right now to start down that new path. Just do it.